LAURINBURG – With a few more days left in his tenure as Chamber of Commerce president, John Ferguson, took some time to reflect on the organization’s accomplishments for the year.
Ferguson’s tenure will culminate with the annual chamber dinner and awards banquet on Jan. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m.
The retired executive summed up the chamber’s work over the past year with one word, “outstanding.”
He is delighted with the fact that the Laurinburg/ Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce added 18 new members in 2017 and saw 13 businesses expand. Just a few of the chamber’s new members are: Cricket Wireless, Weekend Warrior Trading Company and Loopity Loop Floral Design and Gift Boutique, and the Medical Weight Loss Center.
One of the chamber’s best moves, according to Ferguson, creation of the Young Professionals Network.
The group is aimed at professionals between ages 20 to 40 who want to get to know the community and other white collar workers in the area.
“Young people come to the community, and they don’t know anything about the area and don’t know anyone. This gives them the opportunity to network, learn about the county, and meet other professionals. They volunteer with the Chamber and help plan events like the oyster roast and Christmas Parade” Ferguson said “We need to make sure we don’t have a void in the leadership and caring as the legacy of what we believe in as a small community. That is our future.”
Ferguson in also pleased with the fact that the chamber created the Member of the Day program which features a different member each day on its webpage and on the radio. He believes the segments increase local awareness of small business and let potential members know what they can expect for the investment of joining the organization.
The fact that Richmond Community College will soon be expanding its satellite campus, the F. Diane Honeycutt Center, into a full-fledged college campus is another achievement Ferguson and the Chamber are pleased with.
“With the communication and cooperation of the school board, the college and others we’ll get to see a full campus for RichmondCC, if I saw anything as a big success, it would be that,” Ferguson said. “You have a lot of students who don’t have transportation to make it to Richmond County. Having access to education and an educated workforce will enhance the community and economic development.”
The chamber has also attempted to expand its social media presence by raising its Facebook profile and adding followers and through accounts on Instagram and Twitter.
“On The Road” in Scotland County continued to promote the county’s businesses and tourist attractions with 40 weeks of segments on WPDE and CW21 with the potential to be seen by the 85,000 daily viewers of those stations.
“One of the things I am most pleased about are the countless people who have come up to me after seeing a program on TV, or hearing about a business on the radio or at a presentation and saying, ‘I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that business even existed,” Ferguson said.
The chamber also continued to host traditional events and programs like the candidates’ forum, State of the Community Breakfast, Leadership Scotland − sessions which teach participants about public policy, local history, and leadership skill and opportunities; Laurinburg After Five concerts, and support of the United Way Day of Caring and the Highland Awards.
“I am pleased with the energy and the can do attitude of the chamber members. We have a unique situation in our county with how well organizations and businesses work together. It is so impressive that the county, city, TDA, Economic Development, Parks and Recreation, the school system, RCC, St. Andrews University, UNC-P and all the business community are willing to work together to make this community a better place to work, live, and raise a family,” Ferguson said.
The chamber boasts 327 members and a 22 member board 6 of whom are executive members, including Ferguson.
The 73-year-old Ferguson spent 30 years on the road working for Lucent Technologies and managing projects for the US government. In 1999, he decided to retire and come back to the county.
“I thought I’d be fishing and hitting every golf course I could find,” Ferguson said.
But volunteerism got in the way of his golf plans. Ferguson joined the chamber in 2013 after participating in the Leadership Scotland Class. He also serves on Scotland Healthcare System’s financial board, is Vice Chair of the Scotland Health Foundation and is a member of the board of Department of Social Services. Ferguson serves as a deacon and treasurer at Spring Branch Missionary Baptist Church.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169